A vision from Isaiah 34
Many times I read parts of the Old Testament without being gripped by the passage. I take an already fragmentary book like Isaiah and look at its verses in isolation, which makes it even harder to figure out what’s going on. Today was different.
The first half of the chapter contains a warning of God’s coming judgment. “The Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies…. He will give them over to slaughter” (v2). There are many familiar apocalyptic images: “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll” (v4). Then there’s even more blood and gore, even for a Braveheart guy. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution to uphold Zion’s cause” (v8). Then something strange happens.
God gives the desolate land back to the animals. “The desert owl and screech owl will possess [the land of Edom]; the great owl and the raven will nest there” (v11). The passage goes on to describe thorns, nettles, and brambles overrunning the old battlements. Jackals, hyenas, wild goats, and night animals will “find for themselves places of rest” (v14).
Some would look at these animals and, because they were ceremonially unclean (i.e., unfit for sacrifice), see them as symbolic of God’s judgment. Maybe. But what if God is simply returning that particular patch of land (Edom), back to its original inhabitants? The language Isaiah uses is not unlike that used for the people of Israel, for he says of the above animals:
“None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is [God’s] mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together. He allots their portions; his hand distributes them by measure. They will possess it forever and dwell there from generation to generation” (vv16-17).
Those are some happy animals. God be praised!